Fifth-generation mobile communications technology will be introduced in 2019 a year ahead of schedule, Japan’s big three mobile carriers said on Oct. 3.

The communications ministry plans to decide which companies will be allocated radio frequencies for the 5G network, which will significantly increase Internet connection speeds, at the end of fiscal 2018.

NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Softbank Corp. told a ministry hearing they plan to begin with a limited deployment in 2019, then roll out a full service for smartphones from 2020.

The 5G network will have a data rate a few dozen times faster than the current 4G network, a data transfer time lag of only one-thousandth of a second, and greater device connectivity that enables 1 million devices per 1 square kilometer to use the network at the same time.

Regarding data fees, none of the companies suggested concrete price levels. Docomo President Kazuhiro Yoshizawa said, “(Data) traffic will grow, but we hope to keep data fees low so that we can offer the service at about the same prices that current smartphone users pay.”

5G is expected to enable high-resolution streaming of 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic events, for example. Prospective industrial applications include better navigation of self-driving cars, and improved delivery of doctors’ consultations via high-resolution video.

Docomo said it plans to rent out 5G devices for free at Japan Rugby World Cup venues in autumn of 2019.

The company said it will start offering the service for individual users on a full scale from spring 2020. KDDI, which operates the au brand, and Softbank also said it will be made fully available in 2020.

Meanwhile, Rakuten Inc., the e-commerce giant that will enter the mobile communications market in October 2019, said it will start offering 5G for individual customers from 2020.